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Movie Info


PG-13 for "violence and thematic elements


Anthony Hopkins, Anton Yelchin, Hope Davis, Mika Boorem, David Morse, Will Rothhaar


Scott Hicks (Snow Falling on Cedars, Shine)


Bruce Berman, Michael Flynn


Mychael Danna


William Goldman


Novel by Stephen King


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Hearts in Atlantis

By Marisa Scheckel - Synopsis:

Hearts in the Atlantis is a film adaptation of best-selling author Steven King's book of the same title. Several King novels have successfully transitioned to the big screen, notably Stand by Me, The Shawshank Redemption, and The Green Mile. Like these previous efforts, Hearts in Atlantis is set in a mythical golden past with King's characteristic touch of the supernatural.

Hearts in Atlantis opens in the present day with photographer Robert Garfield (David Morse) attending the funeral of a childhood friend. While visiting his old house, now derelict, he flashbacks to the year he was 11. The remainder of the movie explores his relationship with his two close childhood friends, his mother, and the mysterious man who moves upstairs, Ted Brautigan (Anthony Hopkins).

Anton Yelchin and Hope DavisYoung Bobby Garfield (Anton Yelchin) lives with his young widowed mother (Hope Davis), who struggles to support herself and her son with a secretarial job. Bobby desperately wants a bike for his birthday, though his mother constantly reminds him, "Your father didn't leave us exactly well off" despite the fact she manages to wear expensive new dresses "for the office". When Bobby opens his present to reveal an adult library card, he is initially disappointed, but the cryptic Mr. Brautigan encourages Bobby to enjoy reading. He even offers to give Bobby money for reading the paper to him and for watching for the mysterious "Low Men". At first, Bobby thinks Mr. Brautigan is making up the "Low Men," but it's obvious there is something very odd about Mr. Brautigan. He occasionally goes into a catatonic state and seems to know what people are thinking. However, Bobby is preoccupied with his two friends, Carol (Mika Boorem) and Sully (Will Rothhaar). The three are practically inseparable and travel everywhere together. Bobby even has a crush on Carol, the solitary female in the group. As the summer progresses, the relationship between the friends changes drastically as they start to leave childhood behind.

Anton Yelchin and Mika BooremHearts in Atlantis is a very character-driven film. The changing dynamics of Bobby's relationship with his mother, his buddies, and Mr. Brautigan as he starts to mature are the real story, not any exciting adventure. However, there is suspense, too: Mr. Brautigan's "Low Men" do make an appearance and Bobby involves himself in the resulting conflict. Like Stand by Me, the plot is only the surface of the film.

My Take:

The rating for this film is PG-13 for "violence and thematic elements". What types of themes are worthy of a PG-13 rating? Glad you asked! Most of the violence in Hearts in Atlantis is limited to just one scene, but it deals with a woman being raped, which might have garnered an R rating if it had been handled more graphically. There are also several references to possible sexual abuse of children by adults throughout the film, so, despite the fact that children have the lead roles, it is not necessarily appropriate for other children to watch. The slower pace of the film is also more suited to adult taste, and I doubt many younger teens would enjoy the nostalgic look at childhood.

The slow pace is characteristic of other works by director Scott Hicks, and while appropriate to the subject matter, it hardly improves the film either. The movie slows to a halt as Hicks treats the audience to several sappy montages of the group of friends involved in idyllic scenes of innocent fun. But while the movie crawls, at least it's pretty; the cinematography by Piotr Sobocinski gives the film a warmth that enhances the feel-good story.

Oscar-winning writer William Goldman did a fair job of scripting the screenplay, based on Steven King's book of the same name. The coming-of-age genre is hard to do right, and even harder to do well. The talented Goldman sadly did not hit a home run this round. It's never very clear exactly what gifts Ted Brautigan has, partly because they're different every time. However, the adventure part of the tale is carefully foreshadowed and there are some wonderful character moments in an otherwise lackluster screenplay.

Actor Anthony Hopkins delivers a subtle, nuanced performance -- perhaps a little too subtle. Compared to his usual over-the-top acting, he seems flat. However, he is hardly the star of the film. That honor goes to youngster Anton Yelchin. There have been a few child actors that are so amazing that they manage to outshine the adults in the film. However, Anton is not one of them. He does have the right mix of bright-eyed wonder and cynicism, but like many child actors, is too brusque in scenes that call for subtlety. Mika Boorem as Bobby's friend Carol is acceptable, nothing standout, but the role doesn't call for it. Actress Hope Davis as Bobby's mother is frankly a disappointment. She portrays her character with shrillness, in a part that called for a tempered performance. The standout of the cast is David Morse, in a small role as the adult Bobby in the scenes that bookend the main story.

In conclusion, Hearts in Atlantis is one of those films that is neither that good, nor exactly bad. It's merely pleasant. Moviegoers who enjoyed such films as The Green Mile and the recent My Dog Skip would probably also like Hearts in Atlantis. However, the film tends to glorify children rebelling against parents, and the various psychic phenomena are hardly scriptural. There is not a distinct anti-Christian bias, but the story is told from a secular worldview in which God is absent.

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